Oxford English Dictionary defines velleity as “The fact or quality of merely willing, wishing, or desiring, without any effort or advance towards action or realization.” The word velleity, first used in 1618, comes from Medieval Latin words velleitāt- and velleitās; and the Latin root word velle, meaning to will, to wish. The word is used in many different languages, such as French velléité, Italian velleità, Spanish veleidad, and Portuguese velleidade.
Velleity is identified as desiring something slightly, but not to a degree where action will be taken to achieve this. Velleity is considered the lowest form of volition. Volition is defined as an act of making a decision, or simply a person’s will-power.
Velleity is a very interesting concept philosophically, and is discussed frequently. Desire is usually seen as a very monochrome emotion. For example, a person may have the desire to get a job, or not have this desire. However, these different levels of volition have to be taken into account. So if that person’s desire is only mere velleity, they will not have the proper ambition to achieve this goal. It is also interesting that velleity is a form of will. Will is by definition linked to making decisions and preforming acts based on one’s desires. Velleity becomes this exception or outlier in that it is the only form of will where no action is taken.
Velleity usually refers to desires that are more superficial, and not that important to us. Although levels of desire vary from each person, a person will not feel velleity towards things like attaining food, water or shelter, which are all physiological needs. Even if this feeling is towards less important things, it is still seen mostly in a negative way, as it is seen as not exercising the will power that we are all given. In a way, velleity is a very passive emotion that is accepting of the fact that a desire may not come true. However, as is often seen, too great of an ambition or desire for something without restraint can also lead to a tragedy.
Although velleity is an exception when it comes to desire, it is an important emotion that should be considered when thinking about ambition and will.
"Velleity." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/velleity>.
"Velleity." Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/221983?redirectedFrom=velleity>.
"Volition." Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/224457?redirectedFrom=volition>.